解惑篇──生活漫談 ／雲老禪師主答 英譯．陳曌
Q: Master, how do we resolve misunderstandings between people?
A: With any misunderstanding, often the more we try to explain it, the worse it gets. Just like a blob of ink on a piece of white cloth, if you try to wipe it off immediately, the worse it will get. However, if you wait for it to dry, the stain can be washed off easily. This goes to show the importance of allowing a time gap between thought and action. The problem is, we humans often rush into putting our thought into action. If instant action is based on wisdom, there is little problem. But if such action is the result of one’s ego, it is best holding back a little longer. We make decisions based either on our emotion or reasoning. Either way, it is hard to avoid causing hurt to either oneself or others.
Q: What do you think of Venerable Xu Yun?
A: I had the opportunity to spend some time with Venerable Xu Yun at the Grand Ordination Ceremony at Nan Hua Temple. Venerable Xu Yun was a very knowledgeable monk. He was known for his three unique features: First, wherever he went, he only took with him three items – a water bottle, a bamboo backpack and a knapsack. Second, he never built new temples but repaired and rebuilt old, derelict ones. Lastly, he was an ascetic practitioner. For instance, he made the arduous ‘three-step-one-bow’ journey all the way to Wu Tai Mountains as part of his practice. There was something unusual about him that few had noticed – in a group situation, whether standing or sitting, he was always a whole head above others, a phenomenon that failed to be mentioned in ‘The Collection of the 48 Mysteries’.
Q: Are lay Buddhists allowed to use instruments when chanting at home?
A: First, let me explain the function of the instruments. They are used to ensure unison in chanting, to set the rhythm and pace for the congregation. For this reason, there is no need for the use of instruments when chanting in private unless there are two or more people involved.
Instruments are also used to announce the staging of a dharma ceremony. For instance, offering of the incense is always done with three sounds of the ‘bowl’ known as the ‘qing’. This is to announce to all beings in the realms of the living as well as the dead that a ceremony is about to take place and that they are invited to join in to share the merits. Therefore, it is neither appropriate nor necessary to engage the instruments when chanting alone. I hope this helps you to understand the purpose of the dharma instruments better.